Thursday, April 22, 2010

Swedish Tennis Federation Wants to Punish Reepalu for Anti-Israeli Statements

The Swedish Tennis Federation wants to penalize Malmö’s Mayor Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrats) for his negative stance on the Davis Cup Game played between Sweden and Israel in Malmö last year. It was partly due to Reepalu’s highly negative statements about Israel that, in the end, resulted in the game being played without audience. The decision to play without spectators caused the Tennis Federation serious financial losses and now they want to punish Reepalu -- by sending him more bills.

That Davis Cup Game Sweden caused an international uproar. The decision to hold the game got much criticism from the politically influential Social Democrats—including Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu—but  also from the many Middle Eastern immigrants which are gaining strength in numbers and force in the Malmö. During the game there were violent clashes with the local police. In additional violence linked to the game, the Malmö Jewish community center was attacked by arsonists—an incident that the mayor persistently denied having knowledge about.  A legal and orderly peace demonstration by the Jewish community was attacked by an illegal anti-Israeli mob. Malmö police herded the Jews into an alley to avoid the rocks, bottles and firecrackers thrown by the anti-Israeli mob, but did not break up the rioters’ demonstration.

In reference to the game, the Malmö major told the local daily newspaper Sydsvenskan:;
-    “In my personal opinion the best thing would be not to play any games against Israel at the moment”.

According to Henrik Källén who is the secretary general for the Swedish Tennis Federation, “No local politicians should interfere in sports decisions”. According to Källén the tennis federation will insist on billing Ilmar Reepalu with a $5,000 tab. This as he, according to Källén, has acted in an inacceptable manner and interfered in sports affairs. By doing so, Reepalu has, according to Källén, damaged Swedish tennis.

The Malmö municipality’s decision to hold the tennis game without an audience resulted in the Swedish Tennis Federation being fined a penalty of $5,000 payable to the International Tennis Federation.
When asked about his comments on the matter Reepalu answered that he has not seen the bill. He further argues that the bill doesn’t concern him as he was not the one to make the final decision about the game. The tennis federation, conversely feels that Reepalu has a moral responsibility for his statements concerning the game. Reepalu replies:
-“ Of course I have a moral responsibility to criticize Israel’s occupation and I will continue to do so, just like the UN.”

Early this year Ilmar Reepalu became (in)famous due to his statements concerning the rising number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city. His initial response to the issue was;
-“There haven't been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo."  He also stated; "I believe these are anti-Israel attacks, connected to the war in Gaza”, which is tantamount to saying that it is the Malmö Jews own fault if they get attacked if they choose to support Israel.

Moreover he also stated that:
“We don’t accept either anti-Semitism or Zionism in Malmö” as well as; “I wish that the Jewish community distanced itself from Israel's violence against the civil population in Gaza”.

Malmö’s mayor can be characterized as a part-time anti-Semite. While the Swedish Tennis Federation has chosen to punish him with a fat bill, one can only hope that the voters in the Malmö municipal elections choose to punish him by voting for someone else as Malmö’s mayor in the upcoming elections.


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